The American Saddlebred (known in South Africa as the Saddlehorse), was developed by early pioneers in the USA who desired a utility horse of many attributes. These included beauty, easy gait abilities, an excellent temperament and all combined with genuine quality and stamina. The results have spoken for itself. Since 1816 the American Saddlebred has been hailed in the USA as not only an extremely versatile breed but also – and this by its many admirers – as the ‘world’s most beautiful horse’.
In 1917 Claude Orpen imported South Africa’s very first American Saddlebred – a black stallion with the registered name of ‘Myer’s Kentucky Star’. This remarkable horse had to endure an 8000-mile sea voyage before landing in the country and it is surely more than fair to assert that Kentucky Star and Claude Orpen deserve to be acknowledged as the progenitors, and more, the Fathers of the American Saddlebred in South Africa.
Kentucky Star was soon followed by others of his breed, mostly stallions, and the long battle to officially acknowledge the breed commenced. The battle was finally won in 1949 when the SA Saddlehorse Breeders’ Society was founded. Looking back, it is easy to accept that our South African Saddlebred, as it has developed down the years, was engendered by those early events way back in 1917.
To help with the promotion and establishment of the breed in the Western Cape, the Southern Cape Saddlehorse Sub Union was founded in 1966. Naturally proud of its long heritage and American connections, the famous 5-gaited stallion and world champion ‘Wing Commander’ was registered as the logo and trademark of the Sub Union.